Sunday, January 23, 2011

Classical Music in Thailand and Thai Pop Music


Muay Thai Fight Music

The traditional musical accompaniment to every Muay Thai match is a sound recognised as a symbol of deference and respect. This rhythmic music accompanies the Ram Muay ritual dance that precedes every Muay Thai fight, as well as the contest itself. The music is performed by four musicians each playing either one of two kinds of oboe, a pair of Thai drums, or symbols. The tempo of the music varies. During the Ram Muay it is slow and stately to match the mood of this smooth and flowing ritual. When the fight commences the tempo is increased. At moments of excitement during a match the music becomes frenetic. This traditional music increases the atmosphere of Muay Thai events and urges fighters to push themselves even harder.

Traditional Thai Music

Thai people have known how to make musical instruments or to copy the patterns of others and adapt them to their own uses since ancient times. Before they came into contact with Indian culture (which was widespread in Southeast Asia), the Thais devised many kinds of musical instruments. And several new kinds of instruments were created after contact with the Indian musical culture. Including many local versions of flutes, stringed instruments and gongs, there are about 50 types of Thai musical instruments. The earliest Thai ensembles included woodwind and percussion instruments, originally in order to accompany the theatre. The Thai scale includes seven equal notes, instead of a mixture of tones and semitones. Instruments improvise around a central melody. Traditional Thai music is unique for its sound, but also for the absence of written music. The only way to learn it is from the masters, making it a rare art form, indeed.

The King's Anthem

His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand is a talented composer. You are sure to hear his anthem during a visit to Thailand.

Luuk Thung - Country Music

Luuk Thung (children of the fields) or Thai country music developed in the 1960s with singers reflecting on the hardships of living, loving and working in rural Thailand. The Suphanburi area has traditionally been home of many Luuk Thung musicians. The biggest star of all was Pompuang Duanjan. Her role was to invent electronic Luuk Thung. This produced a kind of hybrid pop music. The first Luuk Thung radio station was launched in 1977 at a time of economy collapse. Listeners found the music reflected their own state of mind. Since then it has grown ever more popular in Thailand.

Mor Lam - From Isaan

Mor lam (song Doctor) is the gargantuan beat of the Isaan region in the north east of Thailand. Like Luuk Thung it centres around lives led in poverty. The singing is fast and ryhthmic. Many songs feature betrayal of loyalties when a lover goes off to the capital, Bangkok, and finds a new partner with more money. In the late 1970s and early 80s the state of Isaan's economy meant that more people were leaving the area in search of work. They took their music with them, and the genre gradually became a part of the Thai national consciousness.

Thai Rock & Pop Music
The 1930s in Thailand saw much importation of Western music. For a while jazz was extremely popular and dominated all popular music. Then arived Cliff Richard and the Shadows and from this emerged the first Thai pop music, which was simply called 'String'.
In the 1970s a band called Caravan emerged at the forefront of a movement for democracy in Thailand. The ruling military brutally attacked students demonstrating at Thammasat University in Bangkok. To escape the bloodshed, Caravan, along with others, fled for the hills. There, Caravan continued playing for local farmers, and composed what is now their most famous song, ‘Khon Gap Kwaii’ (people and buffaloes). Known as songs for life, the distinct music that emerged at that time (strong lyrics combined with a rock and blues feel) helped to unite people against military oppression.
Thai music has borrowed much from western music, most particularly its instruments and there is a growing preference among Thais for a blend of Thai and international styles. The best example of this is Thailand’s famous rock band, Carabao who have crafted an exciting fusion of classical Thai music with heavy metal. Recording and performing for over 20 years now, it is by far the most popular music group in Thailand. Their massive success is due to the fearless personality of Ad Carabao, Thailland's number one rock star. He has become a true legend of modern Thai rock. He wields considerable political power through his music. The rock band Loso, playing love and rock songs, is also very famous in Thailand. Guitarist Sek Loso has now gone to live in England and has started writing songs in English. He has been compared to Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.
At the other end of the scale and firmly anchored in the world of PR and hype, is the gilded youth of T-pop. Perhaps the biggest example of this manufactured success is Tata Young. Eurasian Young is the biggest music phenomenon to hit Thailand in recent times. Tata Young is the first Thai female artist to launch an international album, and is famous throughout Asia.


Karaoke bars proliferate in Thailand. The most unlikely seeming places can be found sporting expensive karaoke systems. And the Thais like nothing better than to spend their drunken hours crooning endlessly into a microphone. Karaoke bars are associated with prostitution.

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